relationship with exercise

Learning How to Rest

“Smile, breathe and go slowly.” 

– Thich Nhat Hanh

Do you know how to rest?

Like really, do you? I think it’s a legitimate question we should ALL ask ourselves. Especially these days. I know I’m not alone in this. I feel like technology has gotten so advanced that we are alway plugged in. Constantly. When Michael and I watch TV we’re usually both on our phone playing games. Addicted much? Do you remember the days when someone had to call back if you weren’t home to answer the phone? Or they had to leave a message and wait for you to call back? Always plugged in means you never really disconnect from “life”…from the drudgery…from work…from friends…you never really get a break.

Are you like me? Is your schedule planned out in advance (sometimes my schedule is booked out a month in advance, I kid you not)? If something in my schedule falls through and I suddenly have free time, sometimes I fill that with a gym session. Sometimes I fill it with the gazillion errands and chores and various projects I’m always multitasking. It’s exhausting.

I was talking to my mom and she said she was the same way–never really resting, always working on something or filling her time with something. She said I was like her and she’s right. She also said I’m not the type to do anything partway, it’s always fully committed, almost to the point of obsessive hyper focus. Yep, that’s me! I have a friend that loves to take naps and languishes in them. I so don’t get that.  I cannot relate. Napping? Who has time? I’d never fall asleep. I’d be laying in bed with my mind racing making lists of all the things I NEED to do, that I SHOULD be doing, etc etc.

With my knee injury and doctor ordered rest, I contemplated what REST really means to me. It usually means filling my time with things…projects, chores, reading, scrapbooking, watching Netflix, catching up on TV shows with Michael, playing with Fat Kitty.

You know what I think about when I think about REALLY RESTING? I think of two things.

The first thing is sitting on a beach with the sun warming my bare legs, the saltwater lapping at my feet, a light breeze keeping me cool and of course a very strong umbrella drink in my hand.

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The second thing I think of is running away to a spa retreat somewhere in the middle of nowhere, like at Breitenbush. Nothing but the sounds of a fast moving river, the wind in the ancient trees and the sounds of forest creatures. Of course there are hot springs where you can relax and gaze up at the sky while you REST. Doesn’t that sound amazing?

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It seems as though “Resting” for me really means “Escaping.”

Learning how to nurture our bodies and listen to what they are telling us is hard. If you’re like me, you are skilled at ignoring the cues the body gives you. I usually go hard until my body finally tells me to stop–and that’s when I get my bi-annual head cold that has me planted on the couch with a box of kleenex for a week.

I read this article, 12 Practical Steps for Learning to Go With the Flow, and it really spoke to me. It started out describing how we’ve structured the perfect morning routine that goes really well, then something happens to throw a huge wrench in that routine and we get frustrated and angry and stressed that the routine has changed (totally me!)…The article suggests to Go With The Flow.

I liked the suggestions the article gave and plan on working on them. The article is worth a read. The ones that stuck out for me were these:

Realize that you can’t control everything.

Breathe.

Enjoy life as a flow of change, chaos and beauty.

Accept change and imperfection.

Can I commit to trying to do those 4 things? Yes. Will it help me? Probably. I printed those four reminders out and taped them to my desk as a reminder.

So in the spirit of resting, I took a few days off from the gym. Even though I was cleared to swim, do yoga and upper body weights, I decided to just take a break. I took 4 days off and then eased back into the routine with a yoga class. And it was fine! The world didn’t end. 🙂

QUESTION: Can you rest? How do you rest? How often?

Because You Want to or You Have To?

Do you work out because you want to or because you have to?

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What a loaded question, huh? But I pose it to you because it’s an important question. It can most definitely be both. Don’t we all have those days/weeks? Those days where we drag our lazy butts to the gym even though we’d rather just relax at home?

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Because I Want To

Even when I was overweight and eventually obese, I DID go through phases where I was way into the gym. I remember distinctly when I was still living at home around 18 years old, just out of high-school and I joined the nearby 24HR Fitness. It was a small gym, no pool, but it was close to my parent’s house and it was also right near where I worked. I would go to the gym a few times a week but it was also followed by eating a footlong sub from Subway or one of those personal sized pizzas from Pizza Hut for dinner. I was undoing everything I did in the gym with a poor diet. But I was 18 and didn’t know any better and certainly wasn’t counting my calories then!

I enjoyed going to the gym even though I didn’t see any results (again, poor diet). I definitely went through very inactive phases (sometimes lasting years at a time) and that is when I put on the most weight. The image of an obese person hating exercise wasn’t necessarily accurate for me. I was just lazy. I didn’t see results when I did work out, so why bother? (AGAIN! Diet!)

When I resolved to lose 100 pounds, I started swimming a few days a week and then eventually added some gym sessions to that too. I found that I really really liked it. It was such a good stress reliever! The more I worked out, the fitter I got, the more I LOVED how I felt. I felt healthy, I was losing weight, I was getting stronger.

I loved seeing results and I loved the happy endorphins I was getting. Because of that I’ve grown addicted to that feeling. It makes me happy, it relieves stress, it gives me “ME” time, I see results and I found that I loved doing things like biking, running, hiking and swimming. If I take too many days off from working out, my body doesn’t feel good. I feel lethargic, I start to feel moody and certain parts of my body start to ache (usually my hips).

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Because I Have To

For me, this is the sticky part. It’s complicated. I definitely have emotional scars and issues related to being obese and losing 100 pounds. There is definitely a fear in the back of my mind that says if I ever stop working out, I will gain back 100 pounds. Is that realistic? Probably not. Is it a valid fear? I think so! I don’t want to go back to where I was so unhappy. I don’t want to lose everything I worked so hard for.

There are days when I DO work out “because I have to.” For me that means “it’s on my calender, it’s a gym day, I have to work out.” Lately I’ve been getting much better at taking an extra rest day if my body or my mind needs it. Sometimes taking 1 extra rest day is the reset I need and when I return to the gym I feel refreshed and excited again. We all burn out sometimes; that’s natural. Switch things up!

If more and more of your workouts are done “Because I Have To”, maybe it’s time reevaluate what you’re doing. Maybe you need to find something else to do that you ENJOY and look forward to it. Check out some of these old posts:

Maintenance 101: Fitness Should Be Fun

Why Wednesday – Why You Need a Break Sometimes

Why I Dislike Fitness Classes

You Are Stronger Than You Think

I touched on this issue a lot in the “Fitness Should Be Fun” post. It should be. It may be hard, it might be exhausting, but if you look forward to it and feel accomplished after it, you’re on the right track!